With Thanksgiving and the holiday season quickly approaching I thought I would share with you some tips on traveling with cloth diapers. I’ve written about traveling with cloth before but as I get more experienced I change my suggestions a bit. Here are some recommendations and tips:
Tips for Traveling with Cloth Diapers
By car: This mode of transportation is the easiest way to travel with cloth diaper because the only limiting factor is how much available space you have left in your car after you’ve packed all of your luggage. As you already know, babies require a LOT of extra luggage depending upon what resources are available at your destination. Any type of cloth diapers can be packed when traveling by car and you can stuff them in any open space that is left. I found that reusable shopping bags from the grocery store are a good method for packing cloth diapers by car because they are open and easy to access when you need to grab a diaper.
By air: Traveling by air can be a little more challenging primarily because you are limited by the number of bags you can bring with you. Since most air carriers are charging for luggage you’ll want to pack as compact as possible. Most air carriers will allow you to check your car seat for free – purchase a car seat bags (like these) can be used to protect your car seat but they can also be used to stash some of your cloth diaper stash without having to pay for an extra bag. (Tip provided by Kim @ Dirty Diaper Laundry) Trimmer diapers are best when packing with limited space. Many people prefer to travel with AIO’s, flats, and covers due to their ease of use and trimness. When traveling by air you can always pack less and wash more if you have to.
Disposable – Hybrid – or 100% Cloth Diapers? Which should I take with me? This really depends on where you are going, how long you are going to be gone, and what your washing facilities will be like. Disposable diapers were actually invented to make diapering while traveling more convenient. I will admit that I have resorted to using disposable diapers in the early days when we traveled because I wasn’t brave enough to try 100% cloth. If that is what you choose don’t feel bad or guilty – feel proud that you use cloth diapers the rest of the time and know that you will appreciate them more when you get home. Hybrid diapers (like the Flip and GroVia disposable inserts) are a nice option that blends cloth with disposables. You can use your favorite covers or shells and simply place a very trim disposable insert in the cover. The GroVia disposables are actually the trimmest insert that I’ve tried. Hybrids are nice to use the night before you leave after you’ve washed all of your cloth diapers. Depending upon how long you will be gone for you don’t want to leave dirty diapers at home if you can help it. On one of our last trips when my daughter was 1.5 yrs old we took both hybrid and cloth and it worked out well. I ended up using cloth the majority of the time because I’m so comfortable using it – no learning curve.
100% Cloth Diapers with Flats & Covers: This is by far my favorite method for traveling with cloth diapers. For starters flats are very trim and absorbent. They are inexpensive and very versatile. They are easier to launder and if you absolutely must – they can be hand washed very easily and dry within a few short hours. They don’t take up much space in your luggage either. If you can wash every night or every other night you will only need to pack 12-24 flats and a set of 6+ covers. One of my favorite articles on traveling with flats is from Heather McNamara of the Real Diaper Association – she traveled to a rain forest in Panama with her cloth diapers!
Laundry options while traveling: This can be the most stressful or challenging part of traveling with cloth diapers – determining where to wash your cloth diapers. If you are staying with family or friends you simply need to let your guests know that you’ll be needing to borrow their washing machine while you are there. It is courteous to have this discussion ahead of time so they aren’t shocked when you ask to launder dirty diapers in their machine. If you aren’t lucky enough to be staying at a place with a washing machine there are still some additional options:
- Hotels, cruise ships, and resorts often have laundry facilities on-site. Some will let you use their machines while others have coin operated machines available for guests. A phone call in advance can help you plan your wash routine.
- Resorts will sometimes have washing machines in the room. It may be worth the extra money to choose a resort over a hotel. When traveling with small children resorts are nice because most of them also have kitchens which will help you save money when feeding those little tummies.
- Coin operated laundry. You may need to resort to a coin operated laundry if there aren’t any other options on-site. Remember to pack some quarters.
- Hand washing – don’t be scared to use the sink or tub to wash your diapers in the evening. If you are traveling with flats they are the easiest cloth diapers to hand wash and will only take about 30 minutes in the evening. They will dry quickly over night and will be ready to use when you get up the next day.
Don’t forget the laundry detergent! Regardless of where you launder your diapers don’t forget to pack some sample packages of your favorite detergent. You don’t want to spend your holiday stressing out over detergent – especially when most stores are closed on the actual holiday.
Question: How do I ensure that the washing machine I will be using doesn’t have build up from detergents or fabric softeners? I’ve heard that they can transfer to my cloth diapers.
Answer: While you can’t ensure that the machine you are about to use if clean and hasn’t been used with fabric softeners you can easily do a hot water wash cycle with no clothes to quickly clean the machine. If you have other laundry to wash you can wash them without fabric softeners to provide a cleanse on the machine. While 1 cycle may not remove everything it will help prevent most problems that you’ll encounter with cloth diapers. When you get back home you may want to strip your diapers really well to ensure that you remove any foreign substances that you may have brought back with you from the machine.
Diaper Services: Another often overlooked option when traveling is to research diaper services in the area you’re traveling to. Most diaper services have short term plans just for travelers. They don’t normally advertise them on their websites so you may need to call them to inquire about the rates. With diaper services you normally need to bring diaper covers with you and they supply you with prefolds and a wet bag. You can arrange to have your diapers delivered to a hotel or wherever you are staying. When you leave all you have to do is pack up the dirty diapers and the diaper service will pick them up for you.
Regardless of how you decide to travel with your diapers remember that you don’t want to spend your entire time away stressing about them. Do what works best for you and your family. A few minutes planning before your trip will help you travel stress free. Have you traveled with cloth diapers? What system worked best for you? Do you have additional tips or tricks to share?
To read my past articles on traveling with cloth diapers: http://www.backtocalley.com/2010/11/16/day-4-30-reasons-to-love-cloth-diapers/
Photo source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1192087
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Mary Green says
I haven’t had to travel yet with our cloth diapers but we will be in January. I’m assuming I will probably use some flips during that time as we won’t have a washer and dryer available. I could use a laundromat but it will really depend on whether or not we have time. I certainly don’t want to carry around a wet bag loaded with poo for over a week.
Mary Green recently posted..Mabu Cloth Diaper Review
Heather McNamara (@RDAHeatherMc) says
Thanks for the link – – it brought back some funny memories to remember that rainforest trip!
Thanks also for consolidating such great info on preparing to use cloth diapers on the road. As I often say, my experiences with traveling with cloth diapers proved that it doesn’t have to be pretty to work! You can always come home and rewash everything anyway…
One last note – the Real Diaper Association’s Tips for Traveling with Cloth Diapers might be helpful to your readers: http://www.realdiaperassociation.org/100/TravelTipSheet.pdf Happy Thanksgiving!
Heather McNamara (@RDAHeatherMc) recently posted..Cloth Diaper Users – Real American Idols!